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Farewell & Thank You Lawrence Ookeditse: a Youth Development perspective

Gobe Taziba

“I was an imperfect human, we all are, but I did my bit in what is a little step towards the huge task of nation building”. (Lawrence Ookeditse; 2018)

It has been officially announced and confirmed that, Lawrence Ookeditse –former Director at Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports & Culture Development, has voluntarily left his high ranking and relatively well paying job. According to him (Ookeditse) he is ‘going to seek his destiny elsewhere’. Wherever the destiny is and whatever it is, I join fellow compatriots in wishing him extremely well. 

Ookeditse’s voluntarily exit from the relatively well-paying senior position after an eventful and progressive 26 months, at the tender age of 34, has shocked many. Some have labeled his voluntary departure as a ‘promising journey sadly cut too short’.  However, those that worked with him during his term as Director long saw it coming. He always told, and reminded, everybody and anybody around him that he was not at the Ministry or Civil Service to stay. He emphasized he was just there to make his little contribution and leave.

Though many perceived his words as sheer rhetoric, Ookeditse being a man of his word, stood by his word and delivered his promise. Announcement of his appointment to the senior position early 2016 was received with mixed reactions. Based on his relatively young age, some felt he was rather too young and will obviously fail in such a senior role. Some felt since it was his first appointment in civil service he was destined to fail dismally, especially at such a senior level of civil service operations. 

Others feared his illustrious academic, civil society and private sector background will be misplaced and put to waist at the ministry in particular and civil service in general. Concurrently the larger youth development fraternity celebrated the news of Ookeditse’s appointment as Director for several reasons. One of the reasons being, for the longest time the youth development fraternity has relentlessly advocated for appointment of capable outstanding young citizens to key decision making portfolios in public and private sectors. 

The fraternity’s advocacy in this regard is informed and based on the fact that young citizens have the necessary skills, energy and determination to transform conventional procedures and practices in these sectors. The fraternity’s advocacy is also centered on the ‘youth budge’ demographic phenomenon, which the fraternity strongly argues should be reflected in the appointment and composition of executive and decision making structures.

Ookeditse’s appointment was also easily accepted and celebrated based on his well know achievements and track record in the country’s socioeconomic development circle; these include but not limited co-founding the landmark Botswana Jobs Summit.  In this regard the youth development fraternity largely celebrated the appointment of our country’s young(est) and most versatile civil service director. Furthermore the fraternity celebrated government for hearing our advocacy regarding recruitment of skilled outstanding young citizens for senior positions in government.

The fraternity also celebrated Ookeditse’s gesture of selflessly answering this rather demanding national call at the expense of all his, well-known and unknown, personal investments and interests. In taking up this civil service call, he also selflessly traded his thriving public commentary and analysis rights, such as column writing and radio show hosting, in the interest of youth development and national service. In my view, and I am sure in the view of many other youth activists, Ookeditse’s appointment was not, by any measure, an appointment in vain. It was a progressive appointment in many ways; the following paragraphs will focus on reasons majority of us strongly and boldly hold this view. 

Though he’s service as director was only 26 months, its narration may seem and sound like he severed for a decade or two. But as Abraham Lincoln put it; "It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts". In his first few months into office Ookeditse was already leading an extra ordinarily energized and innovative youthful team at the ministry to stage the first ever Youth Business Expo. The event became a huge success in terms of motivating youth business innovation and exposure. It was reported to have been successful in all aspects. It also attracted the attention and presence of His Excellency the President and his entire cabinet. The expo is now a huge calendar event for the ministry in particular and youth entrepreneurs at large.

One can only hope in the absence of Ookeditse’s guidance and leadership the remarkable committee will continue to promote the spirit of progressive and competitive youth entrepreneurship through the Youth Business Expo. Similarly, within no time Ookeditse had literally opened his office and all social media platforms to literarily serve our country’s young citizens. All his social media platforms where generously converted to a ministry Notice Board and Suggestion Box. Often than not deliberations on his timelines where predominantly feedback, suggestions and recommendations on matters relating to key youth development programs and initiatives. His office, office 201 at the ministry headquarters, was no different.

I honestly felt sorry for his ever welcoming Secretary, Mma Kaote or Sthando as he affectionately called her; the congestion of young people that flooded his office for assistance and/or guidance was overwhelming. He literally turned his office and position into a bottomless fountain of hope and inspiration for most, if not all, young people. I think because of the fact that he was relatively their age, he dressed like them, he spoke their language, and walked their walk. A lot of young people could relate with him easily and freely articulated their dreams and aspirations. Majority of those that managed to interact with him got the assistance they needed; in addition to the assistance they all left his office much wiser and more inspired.

I have come across some of them and also skimmed through testimonies of many others on social media. I’m yet to see or hear about a Director as accessible, versatile and selfless as Ookeditse was. As if the work and demands of the 0730-1630hrs working hours were not already overwhelming, he continued to selflessly and tirelessly devote his evenings, weekends and holidays to more youth development engagements. He made sure he avails himself for each and every youth development initiative brought to his attention.

He graced almost every youth development initiative, near or far, big or small. Social media was constantly awash with footage of him; worshiping with worshipers, cycling with cyclists and walking with hikers, all in the spirit of advancing youth development and empowerment. In light of these facts and a few more I could not capture here due to limitations of space, Ookeditse’s appointment and service were earnestly fruitful and progressive. It has given us a practical experience of how progressive civil service could be, and should be.

At some point when Nelson Mandela was showered with multitudes of ovations towards the last days of his illustrious and victorious battle against white domination, well-wishers referred to him as a Saint. In response Mandela said; ‘I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying’. I am also not trying to portray Ookeditse as Saint, unless you define a Saint in Mandela’s words. Similarly in Ookeditse’s heart moving  farewell message to his former colleagues, he also states and admits;

‘I will be the first to say it, I was an imperfect human, we all are, but I did my bit in what is a little step towards the huge task of nation building’. One of Ookeditse’s favorite statements is; ‘the universe always takes care of its own’. So as he moves on to search for his destiny elsewhere, we are sure the universe will take good care of him, because he is surely one of its own. Lastly in the famous words of, Jacob Zuma, and his accomplice, Malusi ‘Gigabyte’ Gigaba, ‘see you again somewhere’ Lawrence Ookeditse.

* Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (71 890 354/

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Accounting Officers are out of touch with reality

19th October 2020

Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.

So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair.  When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees.  They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.

It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government.  To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.

It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.

If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer.  It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.

An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.

On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.

Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country.
Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.

Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country.
The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?

Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.

When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised.  If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?

Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land.  Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.

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Is it possible to make people part of your business resilience planning after the State of Public Emergency?

12th October 2020


His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.

The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.

The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.

Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.

Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?

The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.

The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.

Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.

Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.

Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.

Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!

This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety.  Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.

Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.

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Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.

The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.

The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.

Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.

A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.

The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.

The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.

The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.

We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.

Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.

There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.

In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.

By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.

In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.

Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.

MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.

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